MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to honor Ray VanDriessche
posted on February 15, 2017 9:35am
Ray VanDriessche will receive the Distinguished Service Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at Michigan State University (MSU) during the ANR Week Luncheon on March 7.
VanDriessche is one of three individuals who will be recognized with the Distinguished Service Award, which is given to individuals or partners who have made outstanding contributions to Michigan’s agriculture and natural resources industries, and who possess high standards of integrity and character and positively reflect and enhance the prestige of the CANR. They demonstrate a commitment to MSU and the CANR by continuing outstanding levels of leadership and volunteerism at the state, national or international level.
VanDriessche grew up on a family farm in southeastern Bay County and farmed full-time in a partnership with his brother, Gene, from 1967 until 2005, at which time he went to work full-time for Michigan Sugar Company as the director of community and government relations.
VanDriessche became a member of the Monitor Sugarbeet Growers Association Board of Directors in 1986 and served as president for 10 years, then served as executive director of the Monitor Sugarbeet Growers Association until Michigan Sugar Company and Monitor Sugar Company merged in October of 2004. He has served on the Board of Directors of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association since 1991 and was president in 2001 and 2002.
In past decades, sugar beets were big business for Michigan. But because of disease and pest problems and declining production in the mid- to late 1990s, many farmers were considering the switch to more profitable crops.
VanDriessche and the Michigan Sugar Company contributed to efforts to resurrect the sugar beet industry by working with producers, university researchers and MSU Extension to create the Michigan Sugar Beet Advancement Program. In addition to this program, Ray pushed for the establishment of an MSU Extension educator position devoted to sugar beet production.
He has also worked closely and cooperatively with MSU Extension, AgBioResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to develop the Saginaw Valley Research and Extension Center near Frankenmuth.
The Michigan Sugar Beet Advancement Program’s efforts in research, development and education have developed improved production practices leading to increased yields and higher sugar content. As a result, Michigan is now the nation’s third or fourth leading sugar beet producer, depending on the year.
In 2014, VanDriessche was presented with MSU Extension’s Key Partner Award for his role in advancing Michigan’s sugar beet industry. This award, granted by the MSU Extension director, recognizes individuals, organizations, media, special MSU programs and government officials for outstanding contributions to establishing, bettering or stimulating Extension programs.
He is still involved in the family operation and helps out on the farm during the peak busy seasons. Ray and his wife, Geri, have two daughters and two sons. Ray’s two sons are now part of the family farm operation.
The other Distinguished Service Award recipients are:
• Sen. Darwin Booher
• William Demmer
Tickets for the luncheon are on sale for $30 and are available at www.anrweek.canr.msu.edu.
The luncheon will be hosted by the CANR, MSU AgBioResearch, MSU Extension and the CANR Alumni Association, with support from Consumers Energy and DTE Energy.